In a previously reported randomised controlled trial, advising first time mothers on the prevention of early childhood caries from before their child was born, decreased the prevalence of early childhood caries at 20 months of age 5-fold.
We examined the effect of the intervention on the frequency and nature of dental visits up to 7 years of age.
Of 649 expectant mothers who participated in the trial, 277 completed a “Child Oral Health Survey” 7 years later. Their answers were compared with those of a comparison group of 277 mothers selected at random among those living in the same area with a first child born in the same year enrolled with the South Australian School Dental Services (SA SDS).
Only 1.5% of children had a dental visit before 12 months of age and only 4% before 2 years of age unless a dental problem had arisen. The age at the first visit did not differ among groups, but the reasons for the visit did as did the number of visits and the need for treatment under sedation or anaesthesia. In the trial group, 34% of first visits were for pain, 29% for injury, and 29% for concern with appearance. In the comparison group, pain was the main concern in 49%, injury in 9.5%, and appearance in 25% (p=0.019). Over time, children in the trial had an average of 2.2 visits compared with 3.1 in the comparison group. In the intervention group of the trial, no child had required treatment under sedation or general anaesthesia compared with 2.9% in the control group, and 6.5% in the comparison group. Only 15% of mothers reported that they had received any information on caries prevention from health care professionals other than dental care practitioners.
Providing first-time mothers with guidance on the prevention of childhood caries decreased the use of dental services to deal with problems in preschool children.
Keywords: Dental care, early childhood caries, health promotion, preschool children, randomised controlled trial.
open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.
We are indebted to the Evaluation and Research Unit and the staff of the South Australian School Dental Services (SA SDS) for their assistance and to emeritus professor AJ Spencer for ongoing support. We also thank the mothers who participated in the study and the obstetricians and midwives who facilitated recruitment in the trial.
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Address correspondence to this author at the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, School of Dentistry, The University of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia; Tel: +61 8 8313 3292; Fax: +61 8 8313 4858;